What if you lived in a world where someone decided who you loved, where you worked, when you died? Cassia Reyes, the protagonist in Ally Condie’s novel, Matched struggles with living in The Society where everything is fair, evenly distributed and individuality is scarce. On her 17th birthday, Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander (Condie 15). When Cassia attempts to read her match guidelines, she sees a face that is not Xander’s (Condie 35). Is it possible that the officials have made a mistake?
In The Society where human error is unacceptable, nothing is left to chance and nothing is a mistake, how can Cassia learn the truth and break free? Questioning herself, the idea of being matched, and the entire society she lives in, Cassia begins to unravel her own life and beliefs, uncovering all the lies and deceit while showing the readers how a utopian world can easily become dystopian. Matched is an excellent example of dystopian literature. Access to information, independent thought, and personal freedoms are restricted.
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As well, all citizens must conform to uniform expectations with limited individuality. Cassia helps us see that there is something terribly wrong in her society, questioning what has been laid out for her. The Society has many information restrictions. They say it is because the previous society failed due to too much technology; an overwhelming amount of choice. The Society only has one hundred of everything: [The items] our society chose to keep, back when they decided our culture was too cluttered. [The Society] created commissions to choose the hundred best of everything.
The rest were eliminated, gone forever. For the best of society said and everyone believed them because it made sense. How can [the citizens] appreciate anything fully if [they] are overwhelmed with so much? (Condie 29). This is restricting to the citizens and makes it easier for officials to hide things. By restricting their citizens, The Society hopes they will not know enough to rebel. As well, any research you do at home, work, or school is monitored. (Condie 97). Cassia uses roundabout ways that do not draw attention and are not suspicious to find out her own answers researching essential information.
Cassia soon finds the parallel between public information and her own thought, seeing as The Society monitors them both. The law requires one person per household to wear sleep tags that will monitor their dreams. (Condie 23). Cassia believes the officials would be happy with her dreams while they are being monitored. The issue is that you cannot control your dreams, and the officials wish to control your unconscious thoughts as well as conscious ones. The Society restricts you so much that freedoms like independent thought, are restricted, if not completely eliminated.
Many of the freedoms you have now, you would not have in this society. The Society would decide who you love, where you work, and when you died. Being matched comes with guidelines with little choice afterward; “If you choose to be matched, your marriage contract will take place when you are 21. Studies have shown that the fertility of both men and women peak at the age of 24 (Condie 17). If you choose not to be matched you must remain a ‘single’. The Society eludes you into thinking you have a choice, but either way you have conditions and guidelines to follow.
The Society had found a way to postpone the indecencies of aging until age 80. “Matching for good genes [could] only take [the society] so far” (Condie 69). Therefore the day Cassia’s grandfather turns 80, he must die regardless of his health. The officials sent him a poisoned meal guaranteeing a quick painless death (Condie 340). In the Society you do not eat to live, but rather eat to die. Citizens are not even granted the freedom of a peaceful death. The officials determine where you will work based on your skills.
Once you are assigned a position, you would be trained in that skill and nothing else (Condie 31). Cassia had a position in sorting; she sorts item like artifacts and books, and can eventually process data for matches. Her final test is sorting real people; deciding how efficient they were at their work position. The officials used this sort to assess Cassia’s skills, rather than the individuals involved. By restricting a person’s freedoms, The Society requires their citizens to conform to uniform expectations. Each citizen is issued ‘plain clothes’ that they must wear at all times and cannot choose.
Similarly, many Catholic high schools in our own society require their students to wear uniforms, however these students may wear their own clothes on occasion. Every citizen has to carry a container with them at all times which contains three tablets; blue for food and drink if needed (Condie 354), green to suppress anxiety (Condie 150) and red that will make you forget if taken (Condie 330). The officials can monitor how many times you take the green one and you may only take the red one when an official tells you to (Condie 156).
The idea of only being able to take a pill when told to do so is restricting and shows how much the officials have control over. Citizens have very limited individuality seeing as they need to conform to uniform expectations. To assert individuality, some citizens have artifacts from the previous society. For instance, Cassia has a silver compact from her great-grandmother (Condie 5), and Xander has gold cuff links from his father (Condie 6). These simple objects are soon taken away because it was not fair (Condie 202), seeing as all citizens did not have one.
Citizens also are allowed to choose their own clothing for special occasions. For her match banquet Cassia chooses a green dress. Although Cassia chose the dress without first looking at data, it was still the dress she would most likely pick due to the information The Society had collected on her (Condie 25). Nothing is left to chance or good judgment, but rather probability and statistics. Cassia assumed that she was acting out of character by rebelling, however, the officials ran data on her showing she may have a rebellious side.
These people were able to know this before Cassia herself (Condie 245). Knowing this so far in advance allowed the officials to lower Cassia’s food servings in attempts to weaken her (Condie 350) and experimented by giving her two matches (Condie 343). The Society has fool proof systems that allows no error and only allows what they want to happen. Cassia is able to fight the system and break free. Living in The Society where information is limited to only one hundred of everything and any research is monitored, she found ways to research essential information .
She also plays to The Society’s expectations while they monitor her dreams. Questioning how structured and routine The Society is, Cassia toys with the ideas of defining her own path, finding her own match and unraveling the lies about death as opposed to murder. Citizens must carry a tablet container, Cassia challenges the officials saying that the citizens are strong enough to go without the use of the tablets. With the uses of probability and knowledge the officials were able to see Cassia’s rebellious side.
However, Cassia fought this, refusing to allow them to break her down by limiting her food or allowing them to use her as a puppet to do their dirty work. She wished to go beyond to find out when knowledge and power become to much. The Society becomes a totalitarian government; involving itself in all aspects of society, controlling values, and beliefs of its entire population, seeking to create the perfect society (the free dictionary). This is very similar to communist countries, where many of their freedoms are restricted and fairness is held beyond all else.
These countries can show that dystopia is not only something you read about in far off fantasies. Dystopia can be in our society as well as the ones portrayed through these novels. Who is to say what dystopia is? One person’s dystopia may be another’s utopia leaving the whole genre of dystopia to personal perception. Works Cited Condie, Allyson. Matched. New York: The Penguin Croup, 2010. Print. “Totalitarian. ” The Free Dictionary. Web. 05 December 2011. “Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics. ” Read, Write, Think. 2006. Web. 05 December. 2011.